Sunday, October 8, 2017

Operation Frequent Wind

A lovely woman waded in the cold surf
taking photos of the waves exploding against the base
of the rock formations that rose like tombstones
out of the ocean. The wind whipped her hair
her orange skirt. The swash was littered
with pale legs ripped from sand fleas
and sand dollars pounded into pennies,
scattered like chips of bone.
A gull the color of ash buried its bill
in the shell of a crab, stopping to glare at me
when I walked past on my way back to town.
On Hemlock Street the galleries were crammed with pictures
of those same rock formations seen from every angle
and every time of day. There were no images of dead crabs,
no shattered shells, no gluttonous gulls.
That night in the motel room I turned on the television
just in time to watch the helicopters lift off
from the roof of the American embassy in Saigon.  
When the last marine had been choppered to safety
I wandered out to where the street turned to sand
and listened to the sea roaring out of
the black tunnel of night. I could see nothing.
There was no moon, no stars. Just sound.
Muffled crash after muffled crash.
I stood there as long as I could
then turned and ran back to the room
where the lamp threw its light against the wall,
against the cheery shoreline watercolor
that hung there, furling and foaming,
hanging slightly crooked beside the bed.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

When Does it Get Dark?

  The wind peels at the corners of the wallpaper with its fingernails to see what’s underneath. The empty light sockets buzz and spark. Threads of electricity are pulled from the outlets, wadded into glowing balls and bounced around the room. Big, thick nail heads rise from the floorboards, snagging the hem of her dress. Through the glass, tarps flap, ropes whip. A few brittle sticks shudder; all that’s left of the garden after the long, dry summer. Her eyelashes spark and smolder. The teeth of the saw bite into your arm. The world bores holes in you then hands you the drill so you can finish the job.

     The world bores holes in you then hands you the drill so you can finish the job. The empty eye sockets buzz and hum. The wallpaper is covered with pictures of pine trees. They stick in my teeth. The wind keeps banging its head on the limbs. The wind combs its hair. The wind blows scraps of burning skin across the river. The animals don’t have time to eat, they’re too busy running, they’re too busy burning. They’re too busy throwing a party and the party is fire. The forest opens its mouth and feeds on the flames.

When will we be able to breathe? you ask. When will the sky be blue, when will the curtains part? When does the wind stop telling its boring, terrible story?

     The forest opens its mouth and feeds on the flames. They arrest the forest for manslaughter but it claims self defense so they let it go with a stern warning. She drives to pick up the forest outside the courtroom, greets it with open arms but it just sits there in the passenger seat in stony silence. She stretches her tongue out to fill its mouth and it chokes and she withdraws her tongue and laughs. The water in the car radiator turns to steam and the steam turns to rain and the rain turns into the river and the river drowns us. What does the wind say in its defense? It says shut up, shut up. She starts the engine and peels away from the curb.

     What does the wind say in its defense? It tells a story of a woman who stood on the rocks on the edge of a river. She unscrewed her left nipple and sand poured out. She cupped her right hand to catch the sand and held it out. The wind ate the sand from her palm as she petted it on its prickly nose and murmured to it. The woman driving the car tells the wind to stop telling this story, that this is not the story we need to hear, that this story is boring and terrible. The wind grabs her tongue and squeezes it and hisses shut up, keep driving.

When do we write our name in smoke? you ask. When do we crack open the book of matches and read our story, one flaring phosphorus head at a time?

     The wind tells me to shut up but I don’t shut up. I put the wind in a bucket with some fire and some water and stir them together, then I force it to listen to a story about a little boy with thick glasses sitting at the kitchen table with a mouthful of plastic soldiers. All their little rifles and helmets were sticking out of his mouth. His mother set a chicken sandwich with mayonnaise sandwich on the table in front of him. He chewed holes in her dress to pay her back but she just patched them up and smiled. The wind interrupts me and says, I remember that. I remember lifting her dress, stealing the hair from her head. I remember the electricity. Despite itself, the wind smiles at the memory.
     I don't want the wind to keep smiling so I tell it a story about a little girl who was a fire eater, a sword swallower, a pile-of-broken-glass jumper. She stood still while others threw knives at her. She was the closest I ever got to the fire before the wind blew it out. For years afterwards it rained broken glass. For years afterwards the air scratched my throat. For years afterwards every word that came out of my mouth was a sword. I stop talking and wait for the wind to respond. The wind shuffles its feet and looks embarrassed. Tarps flap, ropes whip. The forest opens its mouth and a crowd of animals stampedes out, their fur singed, their eyes black with fear.

     When does it get dark? you ask. Then it gets dark.

     A crowd of animals comes running out. of the forest's open mouth. I stand with my hands open to catch them. What did the wind lift up? Salt shakers, sugar packets, a flutter of napkins plucked one by one from a plastic dispenser? Where did you disappear to,  she whispers to me, her voice a thin zephyr spiraling into my ear. Tarps flap, ropes whip. The sockets spark. I tell myself I see her face sculpted in salt, shimmering in the air. I’d like to lick the salt from your face. Every time I take a sip of water I gargle her name.

     I should have known better than to fall in love with the storm. To become enamored of the hazy curtains, the stockings of mist snapping on the line. I force myself to look away. I try to focus on the glass jar inching toward the edge of the table. The glass jar filled with electricity. I try to guess the seconds before it hits the ground and explodes into sparks.  

     I try to guess the seconds before she hits the ground and explodes into sparks. I close my eyes and open my mouth and count. Before the burning leaves cushion her fall, before the shredded wallpaper covers her body, before the animals with the singed fur and the charred skin chew holes in her dress. I lean over and explain to her that I tried to rearrange the sticks so that they would not hurt her when she fell on them. They hurt her anyways. The ground is scattered with plastic army men. Her eyelashes spark and smolder and her eyes turn the color of ash until the river overflows its banks and when it does her eyes turn the color of the river. The last page of the book strikes but fails to spark. The wind is gone. The forest closes its mouth. 

     When does it get dark? You ask. When we love each other, I say. We both look up at the sky. It looks like it will never stop burning.


Saturday, September 2, 2017


We lived on the banks of a parking lot river, on top of a pole in a nest woven from hair extensions. We dove down and grabbed supermarket sashimi in our talons, pretended we had just snatched it flopping from the rapids. We chewed it loudly, our beaks bristling with the glassy bones.

We lived strapped to the underbelly of a train. The bedroom carpet squished with grease that dripped from the churning gears. When we tried to speak our mouths would would fill with pellets of pig iron, which we would pass between us when we kissed. By the time we ground to a halt in the switching yard our bodies had been totally reduced to steam. 

We lived in a paper sack sitting on the low wall that surrounded the vacant library. The inside of the sack was decorated with portraits of Ben Franklin we'd torn from hundred dollar bills. He would look down at us with a twinkle in his eye as we tried to sleep, kept awake by the crackling of the wind through the tears in the paper walls.

We lived buried in the thick fur of a grizzly pelt spread across the rough floor of a hunting lodge. Mounted animal heads hung like a pantheon of horned and snarling gods high above us. Every month we prayed to a different one -the pronghorn, the puma, the peregrine falcon- all of them signs in a butchered zodiac. We asked them to read our fortunes but all of their predictions, no matter how rosy, inevitably ended with the blast from a shotgun.

We lived in the half-eaten candy bar clutched in a brown hand dangling from the back of a pick-up truck bumping along the road that cut through the apricot orchards. We lived in the tip of a match spilled from the box at a campsite at the edge of the kindling forest. We lived between the silicon teeth of a grinning supercomputer, our dreams marinating in the drool of data.

We lived in a land of parched throats and glistening roadkill. We lived in a country of empty beer cans and fast food wrappers and the occasional luminous strawberry. We lived on the tip of the world's tongue; we were what it was trying to say but couldn't quite spit out.

We lived in California.

Friday, September 1, 2017


I unclasped your metal dress
and chain mail undergarments,
letting them clank to the floor.
I unbolted your metal wings, careful not to slice
my fingers on the feathers.
You shuffled into the other room
and twisted the valves, draining the pungent fluid
from each of your tanks.
You came back and pried out your eyes
and placed them in a wire cage
so they wouldn't roll away during the night.
Dabbing grease here and there,
you eased yourself onto the mattress.
The springs screamed in pain
and you whispered for them to hush,
that everything would be alright,
before unstrapping your mouth
and setting it on the bedside table
where the sharp teeth glinted yellow in the candlelight.
I gingerly climbed in beside you,
running my hand along your lightly-oiled seams,
careful not to get my fingers pinched in any of your joints.
You unlatched the door in your chest
and motioned for me to crawl inside.
I hesitated but you put one hand on the back of my neck
and wrapped the fingers of the other around my wrist
and squeezed. I opened the hatch
and a blast of hot hair scorched my face.
You tightened your grip.
Closing my eyes and taking a deep breath,
I crawled inside.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Washington St. Bridge

Christ's peeling face gazed down from the brick wall.
I looked back and kept walking
Didn't see the car until it slammed on its brakes.
The driver flipped me off and drove on.
I continued on as well, eventually finding
the bridge that spanned the Mississippi
with its suicide prevention signs
I marched across it, wondering where exactly
he had jumped from, where he had landed,
who had found him.
Did a hand catch him in midair as he fell,
holding him there for a moment
as he looked up at the dark sky,
down at the dark water,
before finally letting go?
Did a voice reassure him on the way down
that he would be forgiven?
I reached the far bank and looked down.
The afternoon was hushed and bright.
"We almost hit some fucking tourist,"
the driver snarls that night,
sawing and stabbing his supper.
I lay in my hotel room, looking up at the ceiling.
The squeal of brakes. The rush of air.
The eyes of Christ. The clear and watery sky.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

O Thus be it Ever

In the middle of an empty parking lot
in front of an abandoned Toys R Us,
a car has struck a streetlamp pole head on
and sits there with its windows fogging up
The driver snores, his forehead  dripping blood
The radio announcer talks nonstop
beneath the orange sodium vapor light
flickering in the February dusk.

Russian Roulette

Before you can unbuckle your belt
with its five vacant notches
She presses the barrel of her cunt
against your temple, and grinds her pelvis
then stands there
your sweat soaked up
by her pubic hair
both of you knowing
that her next gyration
will blow

your fucking brains out